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News | Dec. 14, 2021

Virtual reality experience uses Army helicopters to save town from firestorm

By Bevin McAdoo Army Mission Support Battalion

The Army’s newest interactive exhibit, “Operation Firebreaker,” is travelling across the United States after making its initial debut at a New England Patriots game Nov. 14.

Operation Firebreaker, part of the Army Adventure Semi, is a hands-on virtual reality simulation where Army helicopters douse wild fires threatening a small town.

“When it comes to technology, this Adventure Semi is by far the most sophisticated asset in the fleet,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Mottlau, the first sergeant for the Mobile Exhibit Company based here.  

The semi is one of 17 assets maintained by the company, which falls under the Marketing and Engagement Brigade’s Mission Support Battalion.

The semi featuring Operation Firebreaker will make its next appearance at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, Dec. 31.

Inside this full-size semi-trailer are eight virtual reality simulators where participants work as teams of four to save the town. Stations are equipped with virtual reality headsets and motion chairs that simulate the feeling of flying a helicopter while saving the town. The simulation was a collaboration with Army Gaming Studio in Huntsville, Alabama, and is the most high-tech asset made to date.   

On the outside of the semi are three 55-inch televisions playing videos highlighting different Army career fields, a scoreboard of the firestorm scenario, and a preview of the game as a teaser. The new asset is focused on appearances at high schools and fairs, supporting recruiting efforts across the continental United States.

Since its debut at the Patriots game, Operation Firebreaker has deployed to Louisville, Kentucky; Atlanta, Georgia; and Huntsville, Alabama. In only nine shows, it has attracted more than 1,500 participants and generated contact info for 490 potential future U.S. Army Soldiers. 

The U.S. Army Mission Support Battalion and its subordinate units connect America’s people with America’s Army to support recruiting.  Since 1936 the battalion has served as the Army’s premier mobile exhibit unit. Within the battalion of just over 100 Army Soldiers and civilian employees, many serve as exhibitors and asset experts that rack up over 250,000 miles a single year to all 48 continental states.

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